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1 September 2014

30 Days of Night - Volume 1 (2013)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm on a comic-reading spree in search of artistic Zen. Yes, I'm trying to broaden my horizons and gain insights into life through reading comics. Foremost though, I'm hoping to have a bit of fun along the way! Over the past month or so I've been picking up graphic novels left right and centre. As you can imagine, Mrs Uke is absolutely over the moon with my new hobby! ;-)

I promised to post you a few reviews on this blog and so far I've been true to my word. Even the crap comics have lessons to teach. Looking back, I seem to be gushing and ranting in equal measure. Ha ha. What fun!

One thing that's definitely gone in my favour has been how easy and relatively cost effective it has been to pick up omnibus editions of compete stories. Having never even been aware of some of the comics I've been looking at, I've been lucky enough to be able to start right back at the beginning. Today's review is one of these omnibus editions.

The "30 Days of Night" omnibus was written by Steve Niles with artwork by Ben Templesmith. I have Volume 1 which was published in 2013 containing the stories: 30 Days of Night; Dark Days; and Return to Barrow.

Before I go too much further I want to take a quick detour and talk about digital versus paper. All of the comics I've bought on my comic crusade have been paper editions. I find that there's nothing quite like flicking through a real book! The hefty "30 Days of Night" tome is printed on wonderful glossy paper. It's a real pleasure to flick through. I'm caressing it now. I don't care what anyone else says... It really does make a difference to the overall experience. ;-)

Shooting off at a tangent... How interesting then that I chose to go completely digital with my own comics. I designed "Bad Moon" to be read on an eReader from day one. I haven't checked out what it looks like on a Kindle, but other readers seem to render it as I intended it to display. Whilst I flirted with the idea of producing a paper edition, it came down to simple economics in the end; I couldn't afford to make a paper edition. Having gone down the digital route with "Bad Moon", I find that the idea is growing on me, but I haven't taken the plunge and bought any digital comics myself yet.

Detour over.

"30 Days of Night" isn't new to me. I reviewed the film on this blog for you almost two years ago! It's great! I really should watch it again sometime. I've also heard that there has been a sequel produced. When I stumbled across the comic I was in two minds about getting it. That was until I realised that the film was based upon the comic and not the other way around. I was intrigued to see what sort of comic might inspire a film.

The stories in this omnibus cover a lot more than is in the first film. I'm not going to get bogged down in comparing the two for you right now... Buy me a pint if you want to hear that. Suffice to say, I think that both formats have a slightly different payload, and both are great for different reasons.

Let's talk about the comic...

Most of the action revolves around a town called Barrow in Alaska. Once a year the sun sets for thirty days and the inhabitants are forced to sit out the winter in darkness. Unfortunately for the locals, thirty days of night is far too good an opportunity to miss for a certain group of vampires hell-bent on no good. One fateful year the gang drop in and much carnage ensues. Things can never be the same again! And so begins a larger story of humans versus the undead.

It might not sound like the most original of stories, but Steve Niles manages to spin it in a way that breathes new life into what even at the time it was written had become a well-worn track. The writing is accomplished and succinct. I like the short, sharp dialogue and pretty much all of the characterisation. There are times where Niles begins to fall into stereotypes, but I think he's got the balance right for this one.

Whilst the script is great, what elevates this comic for me is the artwork. Ben Templesmith's crude murky drawings create an atmosphere of suffocating gloom that sit so well with the story. At times the pictures are nothing more than scribbles... a burst of nervous energy. And then Ben shows his skill with a beautifully arranged panel or a wonderfully evocative portrait. There is a lot of story here, and to his credit Ben keeps it rolling right through to the end without missing a heartbeat.

I'll call out that there is a lot missing from the pictures in terms of detail, but I don't think that this detracts from the experience. That said, I did lose track of characters from time to time in some of the more abstract scenes. I found myself rereading various parts of the story to try and figure out who was who. I'm still not sure that I got it all. Also, the lack of scenery does have a tendency to make the different locations blend into one. I'm being picky. On the whole, I think Ben pulls it off. Well done!

Returning to that question I posed about what sort of comic inspires a film, I see in "30 Days of Night" a comic that could very easily have been used as a storyboard for a film with minimal editing. But that's not what happened. Interestingly, the subtle themes of the comic script were dumbed down and what we ended up with instead was essentially an action flick.

So actually, the comic did nothing more than inspire the film. Hmmm.

Have I said enough? I reckon so. On the old and decrepit Triple-B I'm going to switch on 7 lights in an attempt to flush the buggers out. Anyone want to reveal themselves now?


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